Coastal Currents festival aims to unveil Hidden Hastings

By Chris Broughton | 23 September 2009
A picture of two women in long socks sat with their feet facing each other

(Above) Sock wrestlers marked the start of Coastal Currents 2009 at a launch party at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea

Festival: Coastal Currents 2009, Hastings, Rye and Bexhill-on-Sea, until September 30 2009

A month-long annual celebration of dynamic and engaging arts events in Hastings and the South East, the 10th Coastal Currents festival has reached its halfway point. Managed for the first time by arts promotions company Creative Coast, this year's festival is subtitled "Hidden Hastings".

The launch at Bexhill-on-Sea's De La Warr Pavilion coincided with the modernist venue’s latest Random Fridays event, and saw Lycra-clad performance duo tit-tat leading partygoers in a "Disco Olympics" in the foyer (sample events: discoball shot put, Martini relay and sequined sack race).

A picture of a sign to an artists' studio in a shopping street

Open studios in George Street pave the way to Hidden Hastings

Meanwhile, performance artists Madarms braved the windy outdoors at twilight clad in tents, astonishing onlookers as they crept across the terrace, undulating like jellyfish and disgorging creeping polythene invertebrates.

As darkness fell, MCs Evil Ed and Riz MC cranked out uncompromising beats that echoed down the busy stairwell and through crowded corridors until midnight.

A picure of a group of women at the launch of a festival

(Left to right) Lorna Crabbe, special guest Kathryn Flett of the Observer, Hastings Mayor Maureen Charlesworth, Penny Precious and Creative Coast's Sarah Yates

The evening had begun with a drinks reception at Hastings Town Hall, where special guest, Observer columnist Kathryn Flett, praised the town's "bonkers community" for their commitment to doing "bonkers things."

Examples of such enterprises have so far included Nathan Burr's bread bird houses – boxes fashioned from loaves and breadsticks to be used by the local avian populace either as homes or sources of food; Hugh Davies' Sea Glimpse mirrors, which allow a view of the briny where one would not usually exist and Lucy May Schofield’s "Bibliotherapy"; unique therapy sessions after which clients received a personal artist's book prescription and letterpress printed philosophical aphorism.

A picture of a young man in a tree hanging bird boxes

Nathan Burr installed bird houses made from loaves and sticks of bread in Swan Terrace Memorial Garden

Other projects ranging from wallpapered alleyways to kinetic, wind-driven steel sculptures are taking up temporary residence in the area over the course of the festival alongside an extensive line-up of events including artists' films, talks, guided walks and hands-on workshops, as well as an open studios programme giving visitors the opportunity to meet with artists and discuss their work.

Chris Broughton talks to Lorna Crabbe from Creative Coast and festival director Penny Precious:

How did you come to choose "Hidden Hastings" as this year's theme?
LC: There are a hundred or so artists involved in the open studios, but a lot of them are makers and emerging amateur artists, people who don’t usually get an opportunity to show work. The idea has been to promote the work going on down here that we might not necessarily know about.

People who are a bit more established have been given the opportunity to do special artists' projects, which we’ve tried to build into something a bit more substantial. The title also reflects our use of unusual locations – there’s been a lot of scope to use empty shops and abandoned spaces this year, just because of the financial climate.

PP: The agenda is also to provide the greatest amount of access and opportunities for people to be involved and to take part. Public art and street art is very democratic because it happens on people's own land.

That’s another reason we've put it in shops and created quite a lot of installations in public spaces like bus stops – you’ve got Louise Kenward's reflective spaces, Terence Kershaw Negative conical and so on. There's some really interesting stuff happening in everyday locations.

A picture of two women sitting on a sofa talking

Lucy May Schofield's Book Art Bibliotherapy

What events are you most looking forward to?
PP: The festival's so varied – there really is something in there for everyone. We have the Ethos Festival, which includes graffiti art and music – that's great for young people. I’m particularly eager to see Andrew Kötting's work in the film festival "Shot By The Sea," and I'm keen on all the installations Kate Adams has curated.

Having artists coming right into the town centre and showing their work in shops is very exciting – I’m looking forward to seeing how the audience engages with that.

A picture of floral wallpaper

Victoria Foster draws attention to a "non-place" with her wallpapered alley

LC: There are events we've set up where I don’t know how they'll pan out – for example, we're doing a watercolour challenge on the West Hill. It's a ridiculous idea. It'll either be amazing or a total flop. And I'm proudest of introducing the artists' projects and talks, situations where artists are really getting the opportunity to have a go, do something really interesting and then have a point of discussion. I'm trying to get to as much as I possibly can – I don't think it's physically possible to see absolutely everything, but I'm going to do my best.

For updated details on all events, see the festival website

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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